The Rusty Key's Reviews > What's Black and White and Stinks All Over?

What's Black and White and Stinks All Over? by Nancy E. Krulik
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Jan 26, 2012

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Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Mainly boys, ages 8 to 10, and any girls who enjoy burp jokes.

One Word Summary: Undemanding.

Not all books should be academic, particularly where kids are concerned. It’s our philosophy that a healthy reading diet is based on balance, much like the FDA approved food pyramid. While books like The Giver and Bridge to Terabithea make up the strong, nutritional, vegetable-equivalent base, Nancy Krulik’s George Brown, Class Clown gleefully climbs to the top of the pyramid, embracing the role of literary junk-food. Everything in moderation!

Krulik’s series follows fourth grader George Brown, a reformed “Class Clown”. George is at a new school and on a mission to get his behavior under control. At his last school he may have been lauded as the funny one

in the grade, but George learned all too well the downside of keeping the kids in stitches: he was always in trouble with the teachers. But turning over a new leaf isn’t quite so easy, particularly for George. See, George’s behavior isn’t actually under his control; his antics arise as the result of a “Super Burp”, a rumbling, gaseous explosion that transforms the well-meaning boy into a riotous puppet of mayhem. There’s no telling when or where the Super Burp may strike, or what the “magic gas” will compel George to do, but the results are always zany.

In this episode, George learns that his school is installing a new TV system to replace the intercoms, and morning messages will be delivered by a student-run news show every day. George and his friend Alex rush to the sign-up boards to snatch roles for themselves in the new endeavor. George is an avid skateboarder and certain that he’d make a great sportscaster for the in-school news network. Unfortunately, George’s nemesis Louie had the exact same idea in mind. It’s left to the rivaling boys to create audition tapes for the job, and as luck would have it, the very next day is field day. But of course, George has more than just Louie’s sabotaging mischief to contend with: right when he really doesn’t need it, George gets a case of the Super Burps, and all bedlam breaks loose. From acting like a dog and licking his teacher to shooting gloppy spitballs at Louie, the Super Burp unleashes George’s worst behavior. The other kids may think it’s hilarious, but can George still salvage a decent audition tape? Will field day end with a trip to the principal’s office?

This is all light fare to be sure. The humor in George Brown is proudly lowbrow, trading in burps and muck and toilet jokes, but manages to stay away from excess and gratuity. I chuckled aloud when George ended up running a relay race decked out in old lady clothes and high heels.

There’s an interesting thought behind George Brown that will likely resonate with kids who are often in trouble for acting out: this idea that George’s behavior is not his own, that he’s taken over by something inside of himself that he can’t control, though he wishes he could and regrets the outcomes. Anyone who has worked with behaviorally challenged kids will likely find a lot of truth in that notion, though in George’s case of course it’s taken to the literal extreme.

But, mercifully there’s no real lesson to be learned from any of this. Nothing kills comedy like forced morals and Krulik strives neither to put a bow on the end of this installment, or even to make George appear heroic in any sense. There’s not a lot to take away from George Brown, but he makes for a perfectly suitable diversion and will likely elicit some giggles during ‘free read’ time.

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